And so today, after the collapse of the Cincinnati Bengals (A hint to Chad and TO: Less VH1, more running your frakking routes when you two finally land somewhere. Amazing how brilliant Carson Palmer looks when your benched!), all of the Queen City becomes Packerland. Well, not everybody. A few brave souls are rooting for the Steelers. Now, I know what you’re thinking, especially if you live in Cleveland. (“Seriously? Do these people stick their tongues in light sockets for fun, too?”)
But I am a Packer fan today. And for more reasons than that team that has plagued me for 40 years – not counting the four years Mike Brown forced me to be a Steeler fan during the Browns’ absence* -in two cities rooting for two different teams. That comes into play, but it’s not the whole story.
We also have Bret Favre, who really would have done the NFL a great service by signing on with Fox, CBS, or ESPN as an analyst or doing play-by-play. I suspect if they based him out of Chicago, the folks in Green Bay would have welcomed him to the broadcast booth with open arms. But no, Bret had to play, like Michael Jordan with the Wizards, one season too many, then cap it off by being a pale imitation of Ben Rothlesberger. No, he didn’t rape anyone, but he does share Big Ben’s inability to keep it in the huddle when he’s out partying.
Favre decided to retire, then go play for the Jets, then come back to the Vikings mainly to spite the Packers. Boomer Esiason once did that in Cincinnati, but Boomer had an excuse not afforded to Bret. Boomer left town after playing for Mike Brown, possibly the worst owner in the NFL. (Yes, I may return to the Dawg Pound next year. How can you miss with Mike Holmgren running the show?)
So now we have Aaron Rodgers, whom many thought would never eclipse Favre. And believe me, my heart went out to the Packers that fateful night in 2008 when Eli Manning and the Giants summoned supernatural forces beyond anyone’s control to snatch the NFC Championship from Green Bay. (And then I sat in a Chicago hotel room watching Eli do the same to the Patriots, whom I picked to have an undefeated season. Man, being wrong was never so much fun to watch!)
The Packers are due. The Packers invented the Superbowl back when it was two words and not even the official name of the game. No, the first two “Super Bowls” were the NFL-AFL Championship, watched less than the Pro Bowl or any attempt by Fox News to imitate The Daily Show. But even with no one watching, Green Bay managed to create football legends. Why do you think they call it the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”? It’s not the Paul Brown Trophy (though it might have been had Super Bowl I been held a year earlier) or the George Hallas Trophy or the Don Shula Trophy. It’s Vince Lombardi, the man who not only coached some of the greatest teams in history, but spawned some of the greatest coaches since then.
The Packers are the NFL, both the old, pre-merger NFL and the new NFC-AFC version. (Of course, how new can it be after 40 years?)
And are there anymore devoted fans in the NFL? You might make a case for those of the Cleveland Browns, who, after having their team kidnapped by a similarly abused Baltimore, grabbed NFL Commissioner Paul Taglibue by the elastic band of his tightie whities, shoved his head into an RTA station toilet, and kept flushing until he agreed to refield the team as soon as a new stadium could be built.
But Browns fans only have to endure a few Sundays of cold weather. Yes, I know all about the Ice Bowl against the Raiders under Brian Sipe and Bob Golic. I watched it. Packer fans, however, show up for weeks at a time shirtless at Lambeau Field, a place so cold even Ice Road Truckers won’t film there. Cheeseheads are dedicated in a way fans in the 31 other cities in the NFL cannot comprehend. -20 below at the game? Hmm… Put on a sweater, maybe one extra cup of hot chocolate before switching to beer at half-time.
Packer fans are due. And Aaron Rodgers deserves to win a ring. He’s earned it.
That and anytime you can piss off Ben Rothlesberger and rub Bret Favre’s nose in it, it’s a good thing.
So, for today, just for today, ich bein ein Cheesehead.
*Between the death of Paul Brown and the dawn of the Marvin Lewis era, Bengals wins were spoken of much like some people talk of John F. Kennedy, Prohibition, and the Peliponesian War: In the long, long ago, in the Before Time